22 July 2014Luke 8:1-3
“Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.” (v. 3)
Chapter 8 is a turning point in Luke's Gospel. From this point onwards the text focuses more on the teaching of Jesus rather than his healing activity. Jesus begins his long journey towards Jerusalem, parables begin to come to the fore, and he sends his followers out on mission.
Luke's Gospel is particularly interested in the poor and the oppressed groups in Jewish society, depicting a kingdom, which includes them. It is in Luke's Gospel (Luke 4:14-21) that Jesus begins his ministry by reading Isaiah's declaration (Isaiah 61:1-2) of good news to the poor. Matthew's beatitude "Blessed are the poor in spirit" (Matthew 4:3) is rendered "Blessed are the poor" in Luke (Luke 6:20); and only in Luke's Gospel is there a corresponding woe to the rich (Luke 6:24). It is alsoonlyin Luke's Gospel that the Parable of the Good Samaritan appears (Luke 10:30-37) and later in that same chapter Mary and Martha depicted as disciples, learning at the feet of Jesus (Luke 10:38-42).
It should perhaps not surprise us, then, that we discover Jesus portrayed in this passage undertaking a prophetic action, that of demonstrating something of the coming kingdom. Those who followed Jesus included not only the 12, but also a number of women. These women are not merely grateful 'groupies' who had been cured. Rather they are partners in Jesus' mission for they support Jesus (and presumably the 12 also) out of their resources.
This is not a necessary detail for Luke's Gospel to include. Notably he is the only one of the four evangelists to include this detail, or anything like it. One can only conclude that Luke included it as one way of demonstrating something about the prophetic nature of Jesus' ministry.
Put another way, Jesus does not only embody prophetic ministry when he helps others as he heals the sick, casts out demons and proclaims the gospel of the kingdom. Jesus also embodies prophetic ministry when he receives help from others in the divine mission. That Jesus receives financial help from women (in a way that is not recorded that he receives from men) is in itself a profound prophetic act which validates the place of women in a patriarchal society, making it clear that the kingdom includes such as they.
- Actions often speak louder than words. What prophetic acts might contemporary followers of Jesus undertake to signal something of our understanding of the kingdom?
- Jesus received the support of a number of women, a group who were not typically well resourced in first-century Jewish culture. What opportunities and challenges are there for creating space for those who are similarly not well resourced in the 21st century to be partners in the gospel (good news of Jesus)?